Treat Gen X Well, and They’ll Treat You Well in Return

It’s not fun to feel like the forgotten middle child. I get it; I really do


Baby boomers, numbering 74.9 million in the United States, have been a powerhouse in purchasing for years. Now the number of millennials (75.4 million) has surpassed the boomers, and they’re taking center stage in marketers’ minds.

Beth English on sleep times and school starts
Beth English
Managing Editor

But as a Gen Xer, when I read the reports on the buying habits of boomers and millennials, I can’t help but wonder why we rarely warrant a mention.

In this issue, we have a question-and-answer article from Knowledge@Wharton that examines the shopping patterns of each generation. Port Washington, New York-based research firm NPD and the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia examined a database of receipts people submitted over time and gleaned trends that applied to each generation.

Some of the key takeaways: Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) tend to be more focused on app-based services and products (think Uber or Lyft), like shopping in specialty stores and buy more gift cards than other generations; Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) favor department stores. Many do buy online but generally shop store websites they’re comfortable visiting in person, such as Macy’s. Really great, interesting stuff.

Here’s what they had to say about my generation (those born between 1965 and 1980): “Gen Xers are kind of in between.”

That makes sense. We may have grown up with computers in our homes but the internet hadn’t arrived yet. We are not digital natives, but we were young enough to grasp and embrace changing technologies, while learning from our baby boomer parents.

At 65 million strong, Gen Xers—while maybe not your target market—should not be discounted. Keep these factors in mind when marketing to this 36- to 51-year-old age group:

Gen Xers prefer to learn about new products through email and online searches, according to a blog on, an e-commerce service. Millennials like to learn about products through social media and blogs.

  This generation blends online and offline shopping, according to an eMarketer report, “Don’t Discount the Power of Gen X.” A Gen Xer will typically research a product online before going to a store to make the purchase.

  Gen X wants high-quality products that also are unique, says TapToBuy. We want to express our personality, not have a one-size-fits-all piece.

  We like to compare products, so give lots of clear information about your product and give us time to think it through.

■  Gen X is brand loyal. According to eMarketer, at least four out of 10 will stick to brands they know and trust and would even be willing to pay more for them. Once you gain Gen X customers, if you give them excellent customer service, they are likely to buy from you again.

I know many Gen Xers are in the market for mattresses right now.

Some are buying beds for their growing or college-bound children. Others find it’s time to upgrade or replace their current mattresses as bodies and family situations have changed through the years. Some are intrigued by the innovations of adjustable bases, cooling gels or nonmotion transfer and have the income to pursue new options.

While you understandably might focus on millennials and baby boomers, don’t forget this group as you plan products and craft marketing messages.

These loyal customers are looking for a great night’s sleep, too.